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Mattaponi Queen: Stories Paperback – May 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Boggs’ debut collection of interwoven stories is simultaneously sharp-edged and pastoral, downcast and humorous. Her tales are set on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in rural downstate Virginia, an unfamiliar landscape that springs to life as each story unfolds, revealing another layer in time. A young woman, raised by her father after her mother deserted them, drops out of art school, $30,000 in debt. Now pregnant, she awaits her husband, who returns from a short stint in Iraq as an amputee. In another story, her father’s longtime friend, dying of liver disease, tries to reconnect with his kids, now living off the rez with their mom. The title story features the long-suffering nurse of a “mean and stubborn” elderly woman, gradually making payments on an old houseboat, the Mattaponi Queen. He hates to part with this wedding present he gave his second wife, who later ran off with her yoga instructor. The reader feels privy to each conversation, so pitch-perfect is Boggs’ feel for the godforsaken place her characters inhabit. --Deborah Donovan

Review

Strongly imagined, finely controlled and well-crafted. These stories are good because they are true, true in that way that only good fiction can be. (Percival Everett, Bakeless Fiction Judge)

Belle Boggs infuses these stories of sometimes hardscrabble, dreams-deferred lives with a finely crafted, absolutely confident elegance. Boggs is a writer who knows how deep and how hard we can love and live. Her characters are too real to ever forget. (Marita Golden, author of After)

Belle Boggs is an immensely gifted writer, and this is a remarkable debut collection-each nuance of emotion, of insight, of dialogue and character, is pitch-perfect and surprisingly resonant. (Mary Yukari Waters, author of The Favorites)

The Mattaponi River is the confluence of three rivers and is also the stunning metaphor for a place where three races have lived inextricable histories for generations. Indeed, the stories in Mattaponi Queen gather like converging waters until the narrative world is coursing and undeniable. A few lives leak away from the Mattaponi, others never leave its banks, but character and place are one in this world so unapologetically evoked by Belle Boggs' beautiful, direct prose, and tension is not so much a few events as it is a constancy that is occasionally emerged from, the water moccasin head above the
water . . . and then not . . .

(Michelle Latiolais, author of Even Now and A Proper Knowledge)

Mattaponi Queen was one of the best things I've read all year. I looked forward each night to a new story, and by the end, felt as if I'd been sitting in a car or on a porch with a cousin or neighbor, listening to how things went wrong, or how they could have gone right, or how they might still look up. The setting was so perfectly rendered that I saw the river, the dirt roads, the woods, and most of all, the way each character moved in that landscape. The interwoven stories remind me of Annie Proulx crossed with Ernest Gaines--the dry humor, the understatement, and the wonderful dialogue that sounds as if I'm hearing it while sitting on a folding chair in a yard. (Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,540,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By pat hoppe on September 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
The "luck" that runs like a river through MATTAPONI QUEEN by Belle Boggs is, on the surface, all hard luck, which is why some of the critics have commented that the stories are about loss. But I think that these critics do not see deeply enough;as we ride through the countryside, we may only glance at the visible corn crop or run-down house. We may need to be shown how to look more deeply at these meticulously crafted stories to see their truth and their worth, which is mighty. I think Boggs carefully plumbs the characters for what lies underneath. For instance, Skinny is not thin, but fat. And his character is not superficial, but complex and knowable. Knowing Skinny takes time; we readers do not learn about him in a flash; we get to know his children, his food, his love of his fellowmen. We find out about his marriage and its demise. We also see, in the story called "Homecoming" that Skinny befriends a high school student named Marcus who may become the school's football star with a little help. We see Skinny making Marcus's life easier with an advance on a paycheck so that Marcus can afford to buy the supplements he needs at the health food store. This is just one example of Boggs' skill of "layering" trait upon trait so that we become knowledgeable about the characters slowly, over time, in several places in more than one of her stories. She has the insight and the depth of perception to cause us, her readers, to come to some epiphanies about "real" life. So her stories could be described as neo-realism. Combined, they sketch an area of America off the beaten path as they sketch people we may not have met. But these folks are memorable because of their complexities, their foibles, their obstacles, their genuine and sometimes touching naivete. Boggs's stories are a delight. She is an amazing young woman with tremendous talent. She delights us now just as she will continue to delight in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Thank god Belle Boggs's husband, Richard Allen, submitted her manuscript to Bread Loaf's Bakeless Prize competition. If not for him, who knows how long we would've had to wait for this masterful story collection about the people who live along the Mattaponi River in the small towns of eastern Virginia. Boggs is as fluid with dialogue and detail as she is with the inner lives of a wide range of country characters, including a proud but lovelorn elementary school principal, an ailing Mattaponi tribesman with a history of substance abuse, a cheerleading coach whose husband undergoes a sex change, and a Brooklyn high school sprinter who comes to live with his grandmother when his drug-dealing mother lands in jail. Even as Boggs, who grew up in King William County, maps her entire community, the world along the Mattaponi River only seems to expand the further the collection unfolds. Major characters in early stories return as peripheral figures later on, and Boggs's elegant open endings create the sense that we have only just scratched the surface of these people's yearning, if often ordinary lives.

As a lover of interconnected stories, I'm grateful to have picked up this book -- and very much looking forward to whatever Boggs writes next.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Shann Ray on July 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
As you enter the world created by Belle Boggs, be ready to be submerged into a sense of seeing the unseen. Her work is an elegant interplay between the artistic nature of the heart of people and the subtle profound dance created by prose that gives life even as it awakens old tragedy. Boggs opens us to characters, female and male, who sometimes transcend their own frailties, and always provide a uniquely grounded view of the human condition. Because of this refreshing sense of the complexities of human nature alongside the quiet strength of what is right in the world, we come away from Mattaponi Queen a little better, a little more absorbed by the intricate nature of the world, and at last more graceful with ourselves and those around us.

An excellent and enduring collection of stories, Mattaponi Queen won the prestigious Bakeless Prize and was recently short-listed for the Frank O'Connor prize, one of the world's most recognized honors celebrating the short story.

Pick up Mattaponi Queen and encounter an author whose touch with the world is deft and delicate, quietly powerful, and capable of providing the kind of honesty and transport that make us grateful for how art can mysteriously transform life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cate F. on August 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Such a pleasure to read this collection of short stories, written with grace and light. Normally a fast reader, I prolonged the book as long as I could in order to savor the characters and the language. I hope Belle Boggs hurries up and gets her next book published. In the meantime, I am telling everyone I know who loves good books to give this one a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nuala Galbari on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Belle Boggs' Mattaponi Queen is winning critical praise for its truth, its scholarship and for the light and warmth of its Mattaponi characters. This is a book that speaks directly to the heart, engages through its honesty and provides deep insight into the human condition. A delightful, intelligent volume and a stunning debut.

Nuala Galbari
Journalist
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Fan Tan on July 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
I was not a bit disappointed in this satisfying examination of people who live along my ancestral river, people who have been marginalized since their treaty with King George promised rights to hunting, fishing and living on the river and its wetlands, rights that were nearly lost to the unquenchable thirst of the city of Newport New, but which have now been assured forever, thanks to the protection of this pristine water way. Thanks also to Belle Boggs, who treasured and illuminated this treasure for us: unique people with unique stories she simply had to tell, people, who, thanks to tradition, could have been forgotten and never remembered again. Her keen eye, insistent need to tell a good story, and her love of place will not let this happen. Tell on, Belle.
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